Multitasking; Good, Bad or Downright Rude?

I recently ran across a post called Is Your Passion for Productivity Hurting Your Career?  Chrissy Scivicque talks about the things we do that only appear to be productive and one of the first things she mentions is multitasking.

I can hear some of you disagreeing with me and suggesting that you are a very good multitasker. Let me share a clarification I found, Ed Hawco (blork) put it best when he commented on a Multitasking Blog Post; “When the tasks are related (clutch, gears, throttle, etc.) they’re really sub-tasks of a larger task (driving). But when the tasks are unrelated (driving and talking on the phone), or in conflict (listening to a speaker while trying to read a text-heavy powerpoint slide), the brain simply can’t handle those multiple levels of consciousness very well, with the result that neither task are accomplished very well.”

 Here is a simple exercise to illustrate exactly what I mean. All you need is a clock or timer and a blank sheet of paper.

There are many of us out there that believe multitasking is not only unproductive but actually bad for those that practice it. According to Ruth Mantell from MarketWatch, “There’s growing evidence that multitasking may be hurting productivity and actually making workers worse thinkers.” In Ruth’s blog she cites Clifford Nass, director of the Communication Between Humans and Interactive Media Lab at Stanford University who says “It’s unequivocally the case that workers who are doing multiple things at one time are doing them poorly, the human brain just really isn’t built to switch rapidly from one task to another. Workers who constantly multitask are hurting their ability to get work done, even when they are not multitasking. People become much more distracted, can’t manage their memory very well.”

Back to Chrissy Scivicque who suggests “Multitasking sounds great in theory but it doesn’t really work. When we attempt to split our attention between tasks, one—or both—will inevitably suffer.” Besides the fact we end up making mistakes Chrissy say multitasking can also be downright rude. People feel disrespected because you’re not giving them—or the work—its due attention. I couldn’t agree more. When someone tries to multitask while talking to me I shut down and wait till I have their attention.

The real skill that increases productivity is concentration and focus. When I kept track of my time with the time tracker  (see blog post What is Occupying Your Time?) I discovered I got a lot more done when I allowed myself to really focus without interruption. 

As you can probably gather by now next week’s post will offer some tools for focus and concentration. In the meantime when you start to multitask reflect on just how productive you are at each task and ask yourself; if you were to give each one your undivided attention would you really take more time to get them done?

 Productivity is a measure of how much – work, time, effort, money, or energy – you have to put into something to get the desired outcome. For more tips and tools on how to get more productive please visit Blue Collar Consulting Inc. at


About Janet, doing it better.

I grew up and still reside in Northern Alberta. While I have numerous interests I am passionate about the Peace River region, its innovation, its people, and the creative spirit that envelopes us all.

Posted on September 1, 2011, in Business Productivity, multitasking, productivity, productivity tools, time tracking and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

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